At this point of no return, where the liver looks all discolored and full of nodules, liver functions worsen permanently & one barely survives a couple more years. This is the cirrhotic liver of an individual who literally drank themselves to death – a result of excessive alcohol abuse for many years.
The liver sustains the greatest degree of tissue injury by heavy drinking because it is the primary site of ethanol metabolism. Chronic & excessive alcohol consumption produces a wide spectrum of hepatic lesions, the most characteristic of which are steatosis, hepatitis, and fibrosis/cirrhosis (all stages can be seen in this video).
Fatty liver (i.e., steatosis) is the earliest, most common response that develops in more than 90 percent of problem drinkers who consume 2 to 5 standard drinks per day. You can literally see the deposition of fat in & around this liver with the naked eye. With continued drinking, alcoholic liver disease can proceed to liver inflammation (i.e., steatohepatitis), fibrosis, cirrhosis, & even liver cancer.
Normal brain functioning also depends on several aspects of normal liver functioning. For example, the liver supplies certain nutrients to the brain that the brain itself cannot produce. Impaired detoxification during liver failure leads to an accumulation of ammonia & other neurotoxins in blood circulation, causing altered amino acid transport across the blood-brain barrier, impaired neurotransmitter metabolism, & depressed cerebral glucose metabolism. This ultimately causes swelling of brain cells (astrocytes) giving rise to what is known as ‘hepatic encephalopathy’ (HE). Patients suffering from HE can present with irregular movements of the hands/arms, agitation, excitement, slurred speech/seizures (occur rarely), strange behavior & severe personality changes. These changes increase the risk of brain herniation, heart, kidney & breathing problems as well as risk of body-wide infection that can result in permanent nervous system damage & coma.
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